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Early detection makes a difference for local breast cancer survivor

Every October, which serves as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dina Duncan Miller counts her blessings. Miller, 56, is a survivor of triple negative ductal carcinoma.

Miller is a 1983 graduate of Johnson County High School in Wrightsville. She has three children—Allie, Kyle, and Hailey—as well as nine “beautiful grandchildren.” She has worked at a medical center in Dublin since 2010.

Miller explains that though cancer-related philanthropy has always weighed heavy on her heart, she never imagined it would happen to her.

“I have always tried to be involved with Relay for Life. I’ve participated locally ever since I was young. I have dealt with many friends and family who have battled, won, or lost to cancer without knowing that one day it would be very very personal to me,” she said.

Though she was several years behind on her routine mammogram, in 2014, Miller discovered a suspicious lump in her breast through self-checking. She had discovered a benign tumor.

This scare prompted her to take her breast health more seriously as she approached the age of 50. She scheduled a routine mammogram for the next year, at which she, yet again, found a tumor—but this time, Miller wasn’t so lucky.

The date of June 9, 2015 still has a grip on Miller, but according to her, this breast cancer diagnosis was not a sign of defeat but rather “time to get busy.” Her medical team—Dr. Kirkland Kolbie, Dr. Susan Mahaney, Dr. Richard Greco, and Dr. Arvind Aggarwal—assisted Miller through the “blur” of the next few months. She underwent a partial mastectomy and reconstruction and was luckily able to forego chemotherapy and radiation.

“Triple-negative breast cancer is significantly more aggressive and has a higher percentage of return than other cancers… But because mine was detected very very early my chances are increased of staying cancer free—with God’s help and those mammograms of course!”

Miller’s five-year cancer-free mark came in June 2020. This was a huge milestone because the chance of recurrence dramatically decreases after the five-year mark. Of course, it could always return, but Miller chooses to live by the “faith over fear” motto these days.

Routine check-ups and awareness are critical when dealing with aggressive cancers such as Miller’s. She encourages others to do what they can and pray about what they can’t when it comes to their body.

“When they say early detection saves lives, they mean me! It literally saved mine... They say listen to your body. You know when something is wrong. In this case, there were no signs or indications that anything was going on. Meanwhile, cancer was forming and growing in my breast. If it had not been for that routine screening mammogram, my outcome may (and honestly probably would) have been much worse. There are many things that are out of our control, but this is one thing that we can do to improve our odds while also staying positive.”

Today, Miller feels like she has much to live for. She hopes to be here a long time, alongside her supportive family. She continues to get her mammogram and chest x-ray yearly, along with routine labs. She also thanks her daughters.

Lastly, Miller hasn’t missed a single appointment yet, and she feels “blessed” to have the amazing support of her team—her family, friends, coworkers, and doctors.

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